In Stephen King’s fascinating novel 11/22/63, an English teacher from 2011 Maine travels back in time to try and stop the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy in Dallas. The central assumption is that if he can stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, the War In Vietnam would never happen and history would change for the better. The murder of JFK is the source of endless speculation, but 11.22.63 stops to speculate about a world in which JFK survives.
The novel is lengthy and quite complex but still a wonderful read filled with a fascinating recreation of what it was like to live in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I’ll not try to summarize the novel here and certainly do not want to give away major plot points, but highly recommend reading the book. I was thrilled when Hulu aired a mini-series based on the book, I enjoyed the mini-series quite a bit, but rather than presenting a review, I’d like to draw your attention to a startling 49-second sequence in the film. It brilliantly recreates what it looked like on the ground in Dealey Plaza on that tragic day.
11.22.63 – Stunning Re-Creation Of Dealey Plaza
Setting the movie in the recognizable recent past is always a challenge. In the case of 11.22.63, the art department, set designers, and costumers did a spectacular job capturing the era. The 49-second sequence is a breathtaking re-creation of what it looked like on the ground in Dealey Plaza seconds before JFK was murdered. The video will follow this description. The sequence begins with the two main characters, Jake and Sadie, trying to run through Dealey Plaza to stop the assassination.
What makes the sequence so amazing (from a historian’s point of view) is the absolute visual authenticity of the scene. The production team meticulously studied the color photographs and the famous Zapruder film. They placed actors in the exact locations where real life witnesses were standing. Shooting the sequence in Dealey Plaza itself lends great authenticity. Then they perfectly recreated the exact clothes the people were wearing that day. Compare eyewitnesses Jean Hill and Mary Moorman. As seen on the Zapruder film (left) Hill is in a red coat with dark sunglasses; Moorman was in a dark blue coat over white. The recreation in 11.22.63 is superb.
Other important players – Zapruder and his secretary Marilyn Sitzman, the “Umbrella Man,” and other key witnesses are seen in the correct locations. The actors are dressed exactly as the people they were portraying. Here is the sequence:
11.22.63 – The Miniseries
The head writer, Bridget Carpenter, acknowledged that she and her writing staff had to make significant changes to both the narrative structure and the plot of the novel. As with most novels adapted to film, die-hard fans of the book are likely to be disappointed. Nonetheless, taken on its own, the miniseries is very well written. It is relevant to mention that Stephen King cooperated on the creation of the miniseries and seems very pleased with it. The acting was uniformly excellent. James Franco brought understated charisma to the lead role and Sarah Gadon was a revelation as his love interest. Her strength, enthusiasm, and charm made her character memorable. As mentioned above, the physical production was superb.
I encourage your comments on both the book an mini-series!